Mock Turtle Soup and the Threatened Desert Tortoise

Mock Turtle Soup

🐢 Mock Turtle Soup 🐢
and
The Threatened Desert Tortoise

We are fortunate to live on the border of an area known for its rich cultural heritage, and its unique geological and ecological features. In 2002 Congress designated the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area to preserve and protect 48,438 acres of southern Nevada’s Mojave Desert for future generations.

Our community is separated from the conservation area by a little traveled road called Democracy Drive. Turns out, the other day while on Democracy Drive I spotted this not-so-little fella meandering into the middle of the road.

Concerned for his well-being, I stopped, kept my distance, took some pics, but not being familiar with desert tortoise protocol, there was nothing I could do at the moment.

desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)

I went to the Ranger Station on Nawghaw Poa Road to find out more about him. They said the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is the largest reptile and the only wild land tortoise found in the southwestern United States.

And the Mojave desert tortoise was federally listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as a threatened species on April 2, 1990.

Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area

They said to handle all tortoise carefully and only if authorized to do so! Tortoises can be injured and can die from improper handling. Do not approach tortoises unless absolutely necessary, as your presence can induce stress in the animal.

When you must approach a tortoise, move slowly and approach from the rear of the animal. Pick up the tortoise gently and keep it level at all times. When handling large tortoises, grasp the animal with both hands, one at each side of the animal.

I was told that persons handling tortoises should wear surgical type gloves to inhibit the transmission of diseases. If gloves aren’t available make sure to sanitize your hands. Since I won’t be moving an endangered desert tortoise anytime soon, they did say another alternative would be to call the ranger station if a tortoise is in danger and they will come to take care of him.

If you are in Southern Nevada, and see a desert tortoise in danger call the Sloan Canyon Park Ranger at 702-233-6339. Additionally for any lost turtles, especially desert tortoises, call the Wild Desert Tortoise Assistance Line at 702-593-9027.

Mock Turtle Soup and the Endangered Desert Tortoise

Mock Turtle Soup

Now let’s talk about the soup!

Turtle soup is traditionally made from sea turtle, snapping turtle, box turtle, or terrapin depending on the region of the world. It has NEVER culinarily been made from desert tortoise! However, it was the local desert tortoise that inspired me to research and prepare Mock Turtle Soup.

Mock (imitation) turtle soup contains no turtle and can be made from many different kinds of meats including ground beef, oxtail, calf’s head, veal shoulder and others.

On his terrific blog Hunt Gather Cook, James Beard Award-winning author and chef Hank Shaw, writes that turtle meat tastes like a cool combination of chicken thigh, clam and pork with at least four different textures and colors coming from the same turtle.

It was his description that lead to my recipe for Mock Turtle Soup which includes grilled chicken thighs, crisped and diced pork belly, and chopped clams. This super-tasty combination of heterogeneous ingredients results in a unique soup that is quite compelling with its various flavors and textures. And although I have not tried snapping turtle, I suspect this soup may imitate the flavors and textures quite well.

Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area

Mock Turtle Soup Recipe

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Senate Bean Soup

Senate Bean Soup

🇺🇸 Senate Bean Soup 🇺🇸

Today, March 30, 1940, we are dining at the United States Senate Office Building Restaurant. We choose a bowl of “Old-Fashioned Bean Soup” for 15 cents, a “Lettuce Salad” for 15 cents, “Iced Tea” for 5 cents, and a cup of “Coffee” before we go back to the office, for another 5 cents. The bill for our very pleasant luncheon in the Senate dining room is 40 cents each.

Bean soup has been a required and beloved menu tradition in Senate restaurants for well over a century. There are competing stories about the origin of the mandate that bean soup be served daily.

According to one story, the Senate’s bean soup tradition began early in the 20th century at the request of Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho, who as chair of the committee overseeing the Senate Restaurant, passed a resolution in the committee requiring that bean soup be on the menu daily.

Another story attributes the request to Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota, who expressed his fondness for the soup in 1903 and insisted that it be on the menu each day.

Lunch in the Senate Dining Room

The name change from “Old-Fashioned Bean Soup” to “Senate Bean Soup” on the Senate menu occurred in 1977. This change was part of a broader update to the Senate restaurant’s offerings and menu presentation, aiming to modernize and capitalize on the soup’s long-standing popularity and association with the U.S. Senate.

Senate Bean Soup Menu

There are two official recipes for Bean Soup on the government website senate.gov here. My recipe combines elements from both of them.

One includes mashed potatoes, celery, garlic, and parsley, the other does not. One includes butter, the other does not. One uses ham and a ham bone, the other uses smoked ham hocks.

In my recipe I add celery and garlic but do not include potatoes. And because we are fans of onion, celery, garlic and smoked ham, my recipe includes proportionally more of these ingredients than the originals. I also finish the soup with a sprinkling of parsley.

P.S. There are no carrots in Senate Bean Soup.

Senate Dining Room Menu

Senate Bean Soup Recipe

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Summery Strawberry Watermelon Salad

Strawberry Watermelon Salad

🍓🍉🇺🇸 Strawberry Watermelon Salad 🍓🍉🇺🇸
Feta Cheese, Toasted Almonds, Balsamic Glaze

A fantastic seasonal Strawberry Watermelon Salad paired so well with our Memorial Day BBQ of grilled Tri-Tip au Jus and Corn on the Cob, it would be excellent on Flag Day or the 4th of July or really any day for a cookout this summer! ☀️

This salad was inspired by one of the dishes we enjoyed last month at Primal Steakhouse Las Vegas. It was quite a celebration at Primal where they set things on fire and employ lots of smoke in their cocktails and dishes. 🔥

Their Watermelon Salad was surpringly fresh and delightful, a perfect counterbalance to all the rich smoky foods including bone marrow shanks, bacony seared scallops, four cheese lobster mac, smoked NY steak, and more.

The service was super-fun and super-friendly. The themed atmosphere was charmingly mysterious and medieval. Guests are fully encouraged to unsheathe and pose with the assorment of swords from a coat of arms hanging on the wall, as well as take pics wearing helmets fashioned from the middle ages!

Themed restaurants unfortunately can vary widely in the quality of their food. This one impressed us by offering delicious upscale food and entertaining service, as well as a unique and memorable dining experience.

And while our dessert crème brûlée was set ablaze, the server handed me a heavy 4-foot-sword to heave into the air while all the folks in the dining room sang “happy birthday” and finished with “off with his head!”

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Duck and Sweet Potato Enmoladas

Duck and Sweet Potato Enmoladas

Duck and Sweet Potato Enmoladas
New Mexican Mole

Enmoladas are similar to the more familiar Mexican enchiladas, but with a mole sauce instead of a chile sauce. And where enchiladas are usually baked in the sauce as a casserole, enmoladas are usually stuffed with fillings, rolled, and plated then the sauce is ladled on top. The word enmolada translates to “covered in mole.”

The inspiration for this duck and sweet potato version comes from a menu item called Enmoladas de Pato at Sazón restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sazón Santa Fe
Sazón Santa Fe

Originally from Mexico City, Chef Fernando Olea was named Best Chef Southwest 2022 by the James Beard Foundation for his unique interpretation of contemporary and traditional Mexican dishes.

Duck and Sweet Potato Enmoladas

The menu states that mole is a sauce of complex flavors that usually includes toasted and ground spices, seeds, nuts, chocolate and chile. Many mole recipes contain more than thirty ingredients and some recipes have five varieties of chile alone. Moles can be defined by their color such as rojo, verde, and negro; the town they are from such as Puebla, Oaxaca, Michoacan; and social class, such as pobres and ricos.

Not only does the Chef offer a tasting of his unique moles at the restaurant, he also sells them online so we can enjoy them at home!

Enmoladas Recipe

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Monkfish Cargot (Escargots-Style)

Monkfish Cargot (Escargots-Style)Monkfish Cargot (Escargots-Style)

A delightful dinner at Michael Mina’s Bardot Brasserie in the Aria Las Vegas served as the inspiration for this dish. But alas, with no snails on hand, I decided to try a monkfish version of Escargots de Bourgogne instead.

Et voilà, it exceeded our expectations!

The flesh of monkfish is dense, meaty, and succulent, with a sweet flavor. It has a firm texture that holds up well to baking at high heat in garlic butter, making it a perfect substitute for snails in this escargots-style recipe.

Monkfish Cargot (Escargots-Style)

Monkfish, also known as lotte in French cuisine, is a unique-looking fish found in both the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It’s known for its rather unattractive appearance, with a large, flat head, tapering body, and a wide mouth filled with sharp teeth.

Despite its unappealing looks, monkfish is prized for its delicious, firm flesh, often compared to lobster or scallops in taste and texture. It’s also a sustainable seafood choice, as monkfish populations are relatively abundant and well-managed.

Bardot Brasserie Las Vegas

Bardot Brasserie

ESCARGOTclassically prepared, absinthe butter, garlic, baguette
BARDOT BRASSERIE ESCARGOTS
classically prepared, absinthe butter, garlic, baguette

As we also took some food to go, I was able to bring home a paper baguette bag too, to use in my photographs.

Monkfish Cargot Recipe

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